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Strong party support for Singapore’s Lawrence Wong

CNA – While the vote to select Finance Minister Lawrence Wong as the leader of the fourth-generation (4G) People’s Action Party (PAP) team was not unanimous, he has very strong party support, political analysts told CNA.

Their comments came after a press conference held on Saturday which revealed that Wong had received the nod from 15 out of 19 “stakeholders” consulted by retired minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Khaw, who was tasked to facilitate the process of choosing the next 4G leader, had spoken to these individuals separately. The stakeholders – made up of Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, Labour Chief Ng Chee Meng and all Cabinet ministers with the exception of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the two Senior Ministers – were asked about their preferred choice and told to rank potential candidates in order of their preference.

With candidates unable to vote for themselves, this means that three people did not cast their vote for Wong.

Associate Professor Eugene Tan from Singapore Management University (SMU) said: “I won’t attach too much significance to the ‘vote’ not being unanimous for Wong. Seeking unanimity is unrealistic.”

The political commentator and law professor added that the outcome shows the “very strong consensus” on Wong being the 4G’s first among equals.

Singapore Prime Minister and PAP Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong and Singapore Finance Minister Lawrence Wong at a press conference. PHOTO: CNA

“The challenge now is for the ruling party to close ranks now that the consensus is known and made public,” said Associate Professor Tan.

Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) political analyst Felix Tan echoed that.

The non-unanimous vote provides “a sense of the reality within the party”, according to Dr Tan.

Managing director at strategic advisory firm BowerGroupAsia Singapore Nydia Ngiow said the vote only goes to show “the quality of the contenders” within the PAP.

She added that what is important is how both Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing congratulated him and highlighted the importance of working together for a strong Singapore.

Both Ong and Chan, alongside Wong, were widely regarded as leading contenders to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Ngiow foresees the two ministers to be picked as Wong’s right-hand men in leading Singapore, adding that “a modern style of collegial leadership and partnership” is to be expected moving forward.

Meanwhile, the decision to consult a smaller group – compared to how other political officeholders like Senior Ministers of State and the Ministers of State were drawn into the process when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat was previously chosen to lead the PAP’s 4G team – also does not change the significance of the vote for Wong, analysts said.

NTU’s Dr Tan said those consulted this time were individuals who have worked closely with Wong over a significant period of time. These are also 4G leaders that will potentially form part of the new Cabinet should Wong become the next Prime Minister.

“Hence, there is a need to ensure that Wong gets support from this group,” he added.

SMU’s Associate Professor Tan said that given the PAP’s “internal structure and the predominance of the Cabinet on key matters”, seeking the consensus of the Cabinet first “was highly significant and influential”.